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Evangelist returns to roots at Central

August 09, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

For Steve Evangelist, returning to Central Union High School is like coming home.

The new Spartan athletic director not only spent 12 years as the school's head basketball coach, he earned his high school diploma there.

"I'm happy to come back here," he said. "My roots are here. I'm excited to come back and be able to continue another portion of my education career."

Evangelist spent the past five years working for Central's crosstown El Centro rival, Southwest High. He was the head basketball coach for the Eagles for three years and spent last season as an assistant football coach as well as coaching the Eagles' freshman hoops squad.

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At Southwest, Evangelist worked with his brother, Joe Evangelist, the school's principal. He also spent some time as the Eagles' interim athletic director.

After deciding he no longer wanted to coach, Evangelist thought it was time to move into the athletic director's office.

"It's always been a goal of mine to get to this level," he said. "There are a lot of new challenges. I have a say-so as to how things operate in the school. The athletic program is the main focus and there's a lot to do."

A lot to do means a year-round position that involves scheduling teams' games, hiring coaches and making sure the Spartans athletic programs operate without a hitch.

"I have to make sure everything runs smoothly," he said. "My goal is to make the athletics run well with the academic programs. Even when I was coaching, the kids were students first and athletes second."

Evangelist thinks his years of coaching experience will benefit him greatly in his new role.

"It's a big plus," he said. "I know all the coaches here and they know me and know I've been in coaching all my life. They know that what I have to say and offer them is coming from a guy who's been there and done that."

Evangelist hopes through his new position he will be able to help Central's athletes achieve a positive future.

"I want to try and help the kids get to the next level, either academically or athletically," he said. "This is an activity that kids can succeed in. Athletics motivates kids to stay in school."

While he will miss the competitive side of coaching, Evangelist thinks his new job will offer him plenty of challenges.

"I'm excited about getting started," he said. "I'll miss the competition. You don't lose that competitive edge."

Evangelist takes over for Juan Leal, who departed Central to take the principal's job at Holtville High.

"Juan Leal did a great job, I'm just going to try and continue in a positive manner.

"I don't think any changes made this year will be my changes. They will be a continuation of things that existed before I was here. I just want to shake things up a little bit. I want to try to continue with the pride and tradition of the Cal Jones era," Evangelist said, referring to Central's legendary football coach.

That seems to be what Evangelist wants most, to help Central's Spartan pride continue.

"I want to continue the Spartan pride and tradition that was instilled long ago," he added. "I'm going to really support the coaches and athletes and give them every chance to succeed."

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